Ever since Rick Nash was formally put on the block last season, we have had quite a bit of discussion on the topic here at BSB. Interestingly, it seems our readers (and writers, for that matter) are pretty evenly divided in the pro or anti-Nash camps. This is understandable given his large and lengthy contract, his (seemingly) declining production and his superstar status on a basement dweller.
If you read here regularly, you are aware that Dave and I don’t necessarily see eye to eye on a potential Nash acquisition. Due to our never ending quest for objective examination, I asked Dave to give me an assist on some advanced stats analysis to dig a little deeper into the merits of rolling the dice on Mr. Nash. Since Nash has experienced a production decline in each year since his 40 goal ’08-’09 campaign, I wanted to know if this was due to actual decline or if the decrease in surrounding talent was more to blame.
Dave was kind enough to run an advanced metric analysis for this post and here is a quick run down of Nash’s past three seasons*:
Note by Dave: I admittedly don’t watch much of the Columbus Blue Jackets, so there’s a solid chance I’m off on this a bit.
2009-2010: The only year in this time frame that Nash had legitimate help. R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette, and Kristian Huselius were tremendous assets offensively for CBJ. Nash was clearly the best, but he had a clear-cut points in the standings advantage over them. Interestingly enough though, Nash’s RCorsi in comparison with the rest suggest he did all of the work in maintaining possession, and the rest just benefited from him. This is the only year where Nash’s RCorsi was better than everyone else.
2010-2011: Umberger was Nash’s greatest asset this season, but the QoC suggests they didn’t play together frequently. QoC suggests that Vermette got the majority of time with Nash, where his 7.8 RCorsi was a big help. Nash himself had a good puck possession year at well. Nash again was worth more than a full point in the standings than Vermette and Derek Brassard combined.
2011-2012: It’s very clear that the opposition sent their best players out against Nash to shut him down. His .058 QoC was the highest he’s ever faced. Vinny Prospal was a key addition to the BJs, his RCorsi is through the roof and it appears that he helped make that line go in the way that Hagelin was a good fit for the Rangers top line. Even though Prospal was a great fit, Nash was still worth more than a point more in the standings than Prospal, and Nash was worth more in the standings than both Umberger and Brassard combined.
As you can see from Dave’s analysis, it seems as if Nash does indeed perform better with a better supporting cast. Obviously, this is not a new concept for professional athletes, but considering the context of the team itself, it makes perfect sense. The year before Dave’s research began, the Jackets finished with 92 points and made the playoffs for the only time in franchise history. The three years incorporated in Dave’s work saw the point totals and most types of production fall of a cliff in Ohio, the only question is, why?
You could obviously place some of the blame on the Captain and highest paid player in Nash. Conversely, you could blame quite a bit of the decline on Steve Mason’s horrendous run. Bad trades/free agent signings also played a part. Given the difference in line mates that Nash had with him in those subsequent years, I think it would be extremely difficult to expect him to keep up a 40 goal pace in those circumstances. Don’t even start on plus/minus numbers, they mean even less than usual when it comes to the Jackets.
To start the season, if the Rangers acquired Nash, he would likely play with Richards and Hagelin. Both of those players would be an upgrade on the dearth of talent Nash has in Columbus. Since his decline in production seemingly coincides with a downgrade in peripheral talent and significant drop in success of the organization as a whole, I tend to believe a rebound in production would be very likely.
Will Nash be a 40-goal guy again in a system like the one Torts employs? It’s hard to tell for sure, but there are no signs of physical decline in Nash’s game, only downgraded personnel around him. I’ll take that scenario over a point producer who all of a sudden has a down year for a contending team.
Now, the contract. Zach Parise just made Rick Nash’s contract seem like a bargain. Obviously, $7.8 million per season is not chump change, especially in a salary cap context. The term is so much more favorable in this case that it really is a no-brainer for me at this point.
Parise generally tends to out-produce Nash, let’s say to the tune of about 10 points per season. Is that worth an extra seven years on a contract? If both were free agents and you could have Nash for 6/$47 million or Parise for 13/$98 million, is it even a debate? You are out from under Nash’s deal at age 34 versus 40+ for Parise.
In the context of the Rangers current contracts it makes sense as well. Gaborik will be a free agent two seasons from now at the age of 32. If the Rangers decide to let him walk, Nash’s hit essentially replaces Gaborik’s. It also gives the Rangers more freedom to play hardball on a new contract with Gaborik.
All in all, while I think Bobby Ryan is a better value, Sather clearly covets a physical power forward in Nash’s mold. I personally would love to see #61 on Broadway and I think Parise’s new contract has shown how expensive this type of production is becoming. What do you guys think? Has this analysis done anything to change your Nash position? Sound off in the comments.
*If the Rangers actually acquire Nash, we will dig deeper into the metrics and systems to find out exactly how his game fits in with NY.
** Also, this entire analysis is predicated on a reasonable trade package to acquire Nash’s services.